North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile over Japan
Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday in a major escalation by Pyongyang amid tensions over its weapons ambitions.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said it was an “unprecedented, serious and grave threat” and called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting.
The last time a North Korean rocket overflew Japan was in 2009, when Pyongyang said it was satellite launch. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo believed it was a clandestine test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
Pyongyang last month carried out two overt ICBM tests that appeared to bring much of the US mainland within reach for the first time and heightened strains in the region.
At the time, US President Donald Trump issued an apocalyptic warning of raining “fire and fury” on the North, saying Washington’s weapons were “locked and loaded”, while Pyongyang threatened to fire a salvo of missiles over Japan towards the US territory of Guam.
The latest missile was launched at around 2057 GMT Monday from Sunan, near Pyongyang, travelling “over Japan”, the South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. It flew around 2,700 kilometres (1,700 miles) at a maximum altitude of around 550 kilometres. Guam is about 3,500 kilometres from North Korea — although the missile was fired in an easterly direction and not towards the US outpost, home to 160,000 people and host to major military facilities.
Abe said the overflight was an “outrageous act” that “greatly damages regional peace and security” , telling reporters Tokyo had protested to Pyongyang.
In a 40-minute telephone call with Trump, he said, the two allies had agreed to “further strengthen pressure against North Korea”.
The UN Security Council imposed a seventh set of sanctions on Pyongyang earlier this month, tightening restrictions on its exports, and investments into the North.
The US confirmed the launch and the overflight of Japan, with Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning saying the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined it “did not pose a threat to North America”.